AU to enforce D.C. seat belt laws

If caught, drivers of overloaded cars could face JAMS

Public Safety will begin referring students to Judicial Affairs and Mediation Services for packing too many passengers into their cars, according to Public Safety Crime Prevention Coordinator Lt. Rima Sifri.

"We haven't always counted people in the cars because it's never been a big problem," Sifri said.

Public Safety has noticed an increased number of overstuffed cars in the past six months, she said.

Previously, Public Safety officers gave warnings to drivers who piled too many passengers in their cars, Sifri said. The office will not refer passengers to JAMS unless they refuse to cooperate.

Associate Dean of Students Sara Waldron said she is concerned about the sobriety of drivers who load too many passengers into their cars on weekend nights.

"We see this a lot when students are leaving campus to attend parties," she said.

D.C. law requires all passengers to be secured in seat belts, according to the Metropolitan Police Department's Web site.

Public Safety hung posters around campus and distributed fliers to all campus mailboxes. The fliers read, "Public Safety does count. Everyone needs a seat belt. Public Safety will report violations to JAMS."

Public Safety will enforce the law for safety reasons, according to Waldron.

"The seatbelt issue ... that's just all good common sense," she said. "We know it's not going to stop people from shuttling back and forth to parties."

Allen Xu, a junior in the Kogod School of Business, said the policy won't stop anyone from putting too many passengers in their cars.

"I think for the school to [send students to JAMS] is just another way for the school to extend its power over greek life," Xu said.

The campaign is part of a larger move to raise awareness of traffic and pedestrian safety, according to Waldron. Public Safety, the Office of Campus Life, the CIVITAS Campaign and the Staff Council are sponsoring the campaign.

"If students aren't stopped here, then they may be stopped in the District," Waldron said.

Alex Cohil, a senior in Kogod, said he thought Public Safety shouldn't have jurisdiction over students getting in cars to leave campus.

"It's a personal choice if people want to put people in their cars," Cohil said.

Dan Bleier, a senior in the School of Communication, said that although students should not be piling into cars, it's better than the alternative.

"What's more dangerous - drunk driving or putting eight people in a car without seat belts but with a sober driver?" Bleier said.

Eagle Staff Writer Rachel Trainer contributed to this report.

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